Sunday, August 24, 2008

Choosing The Victim

This is actually pretty straight forward. Meet the sacrifice.

As I've mentioned previously, I've got a bunch of old PCs lying around, and this one is typical.

A Dell Optiplex 200 desktop style case. It will fit nicely on top of my HVAC unit on the basement, and not look too out of place. It's not hard to work on, and it's even reasonably quiet. It does have one of those Dell proprietary power supplies (grrr.... see rule 4) but I have a spare.

It's a 733 MHz Pentium III, slow by today's standards, but it will run a modern linux ok, with one problem - it's 128meg of RAM. Since it uses the defunct RAMBUS style ram, buying some or finding some used stuff to add in it isn't easy or cheap.

On the other hand, that makes it perfect for this project. I can find RAM for the other boxes and make them able to run a modern Gnome or KDE ok, but not this one. What else could I do with it? Heck, it's got ISA slots - that's got to be good for some geek cred.

Luckily not requiring X reduces the need for RAM substantially. It's quite possible that I'll find it lacking once I start using it, but I'm going to start and see how it goes. It'll be a nice comparison, since this is the same box I tried to run Aastaro on earlier.

I'm sure ACPI issues probably mean suspend to disk or ram doesn't work on a mainboard this old, but as a server it shouldn't be necessary. With only a cpu and power supply fan, and being a PIII hydro usage isn't that bad. I'll try and measure it later.

I have a number of old Fujitsu drives of about 8 gig. I'll use one of them as the system drive. Since it looks like we're going to try eBox, SME server and perhaps vanilla Ubuntu server, the plan is to swap hard drives after each installation. That makes it easy to change back and forth between them, while keeping the hardware identical for comparisons.

I'll put another much larger drive (or two) in later to handle media files. If I use LVM I should be able to transfer forward to the new drives easily once I've picked a winner.

Flipping through the BIOS shows a couple of settings to pay attention to, and a bunch of options we can disable.

First off, the date and time is correct, so at least the battery on the mainboard isn't shot. It'd be a pain to find that out after the fact. I'm disabling the floppy in the BIOS and disconnecting the power to it - I can't see using it for anything.

Since there's no option to pick a boot device via the keyboard, the startup order will have to be CDROM then hard drive. Going into the integrated devices menu I turned off the sound, the mouse port, the serial ports and the parallel ports, leaving on the internal speaker and the built in network card. I added a standard PCI 3com 905B nic earlier for the Aastaro test, since it wouldn't recognize any of the old ISA cards I have kicking around. I turned off reporting keyboard errors since I won't keep one attached and set it to auto power on whenever it's got AC.

Next up are some quick tests to make sure are hardware is ok.

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